The lymphatic system is part of the body’s circulation and immune system. Lymphedema occurs when there is damage or blockage in the lymphatic system, causing swelling (edema) in the affected area. Lymphedema usually affects an arm or leg, but it can also affect other parts of the body, such as the head and neck. Swelling usually develops slowly, over time. It may develop during treatment or it may start years after treatment.
Causes of Lymphedema
What you need to look out for
Lymphedema can be treated but results are best if done early. It is important to look out for the following symptoms and if present, to see your doctor or nurse to be assessed.
How it can be treated
Although there is currently no cure for lymphedema, it can be managed with early diagnosis and treatment. Your doctor or nurse will first need to assess your condition and arrange for tests if necessary. They may then refer you to see a Physical or Occupational therapist, who teaches you exercises and self-massages, or recommends special compressive garments (e.g. stockings, arm sleeves) to help you manage the lymphedema.
What you can do
The following are some of the do’s and don’ts to help you manage lymphedema and prevent further complications:
When to call your cancer care team
Please inform your doctor or nurse as soon as you notice symptoms of lymphedema or if you develop the following symptoms that may indicate worsening or complications of the condition.
If you have any questions regarding the above, please call the Cancer Helpline at +65 6225 5655 or approach your doctor or nurse for further details.
The above contents have been approved by the Cancer Education Information Service, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), for people with cancer and their families and caregivers.
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